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Maple Syrup

Maple Syrup, a story of tapping the spring trees

Maple Tap, MOA collection
Maple Tap (one of two), MOA’s Jury collection from St. Marie II site.

 

Drip…drip…drip…

Chirpchirp…chirpchirp

The sounds of spring are all around you. The ice melting and falling from the trees, the trickle of water beneath the crunchy snow, the chirp of birds newly returned and looking for food.

You and your cousin Little Bear are walking through the forest to your mother’s maple hut. Many seasons ago her mother planted maple trees so that your family could make their own maple syrup. She built a small wigwam to stay in for the time it takes to tap the maple trees and make the syrup. It is to this stand of maples that you and Little Bear are heading, about half a day’s walk from your village.

The maple hut is far into the wilderness, away from the rivers where most people live and grow food. But this forest is not empty of people. The trail to the hut passes near hunting camps, fishing spots, and other places where people from the villages come to work when the snow melts.

Finally, after a long time walking, you see the large, majestic maples looming ahead of you, and you hear the thud of stone into wood. Your mother and eldest brother have come ahead of you to get the work started.

You watch your brother skillfully cut a notch in the tree with his axe and stick a small, grooved piece of bark into the notch. Your mother places wooden bowls and pots beneath the notches to catch the slow trickle of maple water that begins to drip down.

The sap that comes out of the tree is still very watery and not very sweet. Once a bowl or pot is full you help mother set it aside on the ground. You have heard from people who live elsewhere that they use hot rocks to boil the maple water until it becomes much sweeter, but mother says that is too difficult.

What she prefers to do is to leave the bowls and pots under the roof of the maple hut so that they freeze overnight. Every morning you help her scrape the ice away. She lets the maple sap freeze and scrapes away the ice for many nights in a row until she decides that it is concentrated and sweet enough. She then dries it into cakes that can be brought back to the village.

Your family is the only one in this village that makes maple syrup. It is a rare delicacy, but people do love it when they can get it! You like it best mixed with some toasted white corn mixed with dried cranberries. This is a great food to eat while you travel to your family’s fishing camp once the leaves are all out on the trees!

But that is some time off yet. For now you take a break and watch the sap drip steadily from the tree.

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